Real Food on a Budget: Working with the Stockpile

by lydia on January 28, 2013

Last year I started a series of posts to take on the subject of how to work with a tight budget and still consume real healthy food. I’m back in the New Year (finally) to share more of how I manage my food budget to ensure we are eating real, nutrient dense, whole foods. Not to mention, with food restrictions (more on that in a future post). I wrote a post awhile back about ‘Why I Don’t Clip Coupons‘, a common practice for those with tight budgets. Since I don’t use coupons but work to manipulate my own circumstances it can be a bit more of a tricky game, but definitely worth it. Do we think that back in the hunting/gathering days it was easy? Or even agricultural days before industrialization, was it easy to find food and preserve it? Maybe it is getting ‘easier’ with advanced technology in some ways, but I personally think it’s becoming harder to avoid the so called food that is actually very detrimental to our health, both personally and collectively as a nation.

Stockpile Strategies

My goal with this post today is simply to encourage others to think strategically when planning the food budget and the menu. And yes, I said planning. You simply MUST plan if you want to stay in a tight food budget. You will also need to utilize everything you buy, so buy smart, buy foods that serve several purpose. The best thing you can do is to create a savings plan for bulk meat purchases. If you don’t have extra money in the budget for that now, cut your food budget back by a small chunk of money and start saving for a side of beef. Once you get your first side of beef you will save SO much money on your food budget and can then save for either another side of meat or start to build your stockpile with other items.

Thanks to my stockpile, I only spent $30 at the store today to supplement what I already had on hand to make meals for my family. Granted, the boys will be eating lunch at school this week (I hate to admit, but it’s a really tight week for us and the school lunches for us are currently free), when I have more room in the budget I do buy food for their lunches and try to do it the majority of the time (even though we get the lunches free, it’s important to me to get real whole foods into my boys).  The boys will eat 2 dinners and 1 breakfast with their dad this week. So, I will be feeding my boys all 6 breakfasts, 5 dinners, 2 lunches for 3 of the boys, 6 lunches for my 5 year old and all of my own meals obviously. (Hope that’s not too confusing.) If I didn’t have a stockpile, I would not have been able to afford to feed my family this week. Thus the importance of working to build the stockpile in the first place. I can’t tell you how to manage saving for your stockpile because everyone’s situation will be different. However if you determine to do it, you WILL find a way. I hope to give you some ideas by sharing how I do it.

I stockpile differently in each season. In the summer through early fall, I take advantage of  cheap abundant fresh produce. Currently, I am just about out of my stockpile of produce from this past summer/fall. I wasn’t able to stock much, but what I did really helped. In the late fall I bought a 1/4 cow with my boyfriend to share. I still have several steaks and roasts left, organs, bones and a big bag of suet I plan on rendering this week since I’m almost out of lard. In the winter I stock up on very little, can’s of pumpkin, olives, fish and try to make sure I have plenty of fats in the pantry. I take advantage of sales both in the stores and online. (I like Tropical Traditions for many things, namely coconut products and just got a membership for Green Polka Dot Box  as well that I will be using much more soon). In the spring, I’ll purchase more meat. I’m currently saving for a half hog and side of beef. If I can find a farmer that will sell me a lamb, I’ll do that too. When I buy meat in bulk like this, it lowers the price per pound compared to what I can get in the store and saves me a TON of money in the long run. That’s why it’s so important to find a way to buy meat in bulk to begin with. Around here grass fed ground beef is about $5-6 per pound. When I buy a side, the ground beef is less than $4 per pound ($3.55 I believe). Add that savings up when you use 2-3 pounds of beef per week or more and you can easily buy some meat in bulk. Not to mention, you get all the bones, fat, organs and lots of roasts and using those cuts helps to make your budget go even further. Your protein sources will be the most expensive part of your food budget. They are also non-negotiable if you want to be optimally healthy. That’s why buying in bulk is absolutely critical.

$30 Shopping Trip

Today, I spent $30 on mostly produce to fill in the gaps of my menu. I also bought some cans of salmon just in case I need another protein source for a meal, likely a lunch. I spent $7.50 on the salmon and I can get two meals out of that. That item may end up as a stockpile item, we’ll see. So you see, even though I didn’t have much to spend and didn’t buy much, I still got something towards my stockpile. I could have bought more fruit or veggies for us to eat this week, but I realized I have enough to work with that I can stretch things pretty well. Even if your budget is already tight, it’s possible to build your food ‘savings’ so to speak. I suppose those of you who understand finance/budgeting in other areas can understand what I’m saying. I like to have ‘food equity’, so I’m willing to include that in my weekly spending. Make sense?

What are your tips on working with or towards a stockpile? Share in the comments……



  Subscribe to Divine Health
  From The Inside Out

We hate spam more than you do,
and we don't do it.

Join our weekly newsletter and get
our 52 Healthy Habits to Take Care
of Your Body FREE!



CS January 29, 2013 at 10:21 am

Looks to me from the picture like you bought a jar of some kind of spice too? I would recommend saving to stockpile good, fresh, organice spices too, just like you do for meat and fat. The difference is amazing. And remember, herbs and spices are not just flavor components, they are also health promoting medicinals, even when you are “just” using them to cook and flavor your own meals. So it’s in your best interest to buy the highest quality herbs and spices possible. It will make an immediate difference you will notice in your food, possibly in your health. It’s best to buy whole as you can and grind your own in a spice or coffee grinder, it’s both cheaper and better. This will make another immediate difference you will notice if you try. I recommend investigating souces both local and online. I can personally recommend MountainRoseHerbs (dot com) as they have mostly only organics and they have bulk discounts. I am certain there are other very good quality and price sources.

lydia January 29, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Yes, it’s garlic powder. It fit the budget this week and was conveniently from the only store I planned on getting to. I try to buy big bags of spices when I can (usually when I have Amazon Gift Certificates), and I mostly buy Frontier organic, non-irridated. The health food store I shop at has spices in bulk so I only buy what I need in batches to save my pennies for now, and they get it from Frontier as well. Stocking up in bulk on spices/herbs is great if you can fit it into the budget, but it’s lower on my list of priorites since it’s not essential like meat, fat and produce.

Thanks for stopping by!

CS January 29, 2013 at 2:27 pm

I use garlic granules too, depending on recipe and time and convenience; all of that must be taken into consideration. Of course, just as an aside, fresh garlic is better medicinally for most things (dried is “hotter” energetically, dried and toasted even more so, and that’s better in some cases, btw. Same with some other herbs/spices like ginger, scallions, onions, and more too.)

I also shop frequently at a fairly large locally/family-owned natural foods grocery chain where I can buy bulk herbs and spices, a limited number, mostly culinary. They repackage Frontier herbs quite reasonably and I have a Frontier account too (love non-irradiated, btw.) For years I used to almost always buy those repackaged bulk spices because of convenience; just tossing them in my cart whenever I was there. Recently I made a commitment to do better partly because I am using an ever increasing quantity of spices, esp, of course, around the holidays, but in general too somewhat consciously for the medicinal qualities.

Lately, I have been making my own recipe of pumpernickel bread with a LOT of caraway, in part for health benefits and mostly because my audience loves caraway. I make my own recipe of Harissa (, love the stuff in/on most everything including just on buttered toast, but I digress…) the main spice being caraway, again partly for the health benefits and partly because of the audience.

I ordered a large order of spices from Mountain Rose last week and one of the products was a POUND of whole caraway seeds for $4 minus 10% because I ordered over 5 lbs of bulk herbs/spices. When it arrived and I cut open the bag to repackage in glass as I always do. I was astonished at the immediately obvious difference between my locally purchased whole caraway seeds (also pretty inexpensive but about the same $ for 30% ish) and this new batch. It permeated my whole kitchen with fragrance, fragrance that was not only stronger, by far, but also had an underlying subtle quality that I have never noticed before and I am an herbalist!

That’s when I realized that my “doing better” meant replacing all my old herbs and spices with new and whole and organic (and non-irradiated, etc.) That’s going to be undeniably somewhat expensive, about what it would cost me to buy bottled supermarket spice jars, but I will get about a pound of each instead of a little bottle. It will be a little more expensive, maybe, or it might be the same, as replacing all my spices with bulk from my local natural grocer’s, but again I will get a lot more and higher quality. Using a system like you do for meat will allow me to do this in a few orders. And I argue that spices, because of the health promoting effects, are second only to meat and good fats! But I am an herbalist, therefore I would say that. However, I urge you to do some research on the benefits of even a little bit of the highly concentrated health-promoting and disease-banishing properties of herbs and spices.

If you don’t have a large library of herbal medicinal texts, as I do, the best way I have found to find the most medicinal properties of an herb or spice is to take the Latin name, put it in “quotes” and the add the words “medicinal” and “properties” not in quotes, and do a google search, so:

For caraway (because I have mentioned it so much) it would be:
“Carum carvi” medicinal properties

Today, you will get this:
Google added the word “uses” to properties too, btw

And here’s Wikipedia’s bit on the medicinal uses of Caraway
“Caraway also has a long tradition of medical uses, primarily for stomach complaints. Emerging and ongoing research from Arabic regional studies suggest Carum Carvi use as an endocrine function support agent, specifically related to thyroid disorders and auto immune disease (see Hashimoto’s thyroiditis)”

There’s a lot of links with a lot more. But because the entry above mentions the Arab studies, one might go run the same search adding “ayurveda” or “ayurvedic” to the search terms since that’s the traditional medicinal system of India and her surrounds and just see what they say.

“But I don’t have any of those problems,” you might say. “Stomach complaints” translates to “promotes good digestion”. And it does not take a lot of study of botanical medicinals to understand that. One good book would do it. Poor digestion is the #1 problem of the West right now in some professional’s opinion, my own included. Doesn’t matter how good your quality of input is, if you can’t digest it and therefore take proper advantage of the great quality nutrition. “endocrine support function” translates to “helps use the good quality fats you take in to make good quality hormones” and essential building block of young bodies and of older peoples ongoing health… and on and on… almost all botanicals have anti-cancer effects too, btw.

You might be tempted to think I picked caraway because of being able to show all that, but I assure you I just picked it because it was on my mind from receiving it alone last Saturday as a back-order. I could take almost any or all spices and herbs anyone usually uses and do the same or even MUCH more; caraway is a somewhat obscure spice in the USA these days. I urge you to consider herbs and spices right after your meats and fats in primacy of importance.

Also, I have no association with Mountain Rose or any other herb or spice distributor, I just use them a lot lately and have been happy with their quality and price; there are other fine and reputable suppliers and it’s worth ordering here and there a bit, off and on, to assure yourself you still like your supplier(s), I do that and am glad I do.

Best of health to you and yours!

lydia January 29, 2013 at 2:48 pm

I almost ALWAYS use fresh garlic, but I did not like the garlic selection at the time. I agree that spices herbs can be very supportive and use them a lot in my own home. It’s part of my stocking up plan for sure – but when things are tighter, I put them to the side. Thanks for your informative and interesting comment. I have an herbalist friend who lives right near me who orders from Mountain Rose all the time and sometimes I can buy smaller amounts if I order when she does. I agree on the quality and freshness, amazing difference!

Debbie January 29, 2013 at 3:30 pm

I try to grow most of our food and in December I stock pile grapefruit and oranges to last until the end of January. We have a breeze way that stays about 50 degrees in the winter and so we don’t need to put it in the refrigerator. Like your post.

lydia February 3, 2013 at 9:07 am


That’s great – I love having citrus in the winter. My aunt lives in Florida and ships us a case of oranges every Christmas. We usually plow through it in 2 weeks (with 4 boys that super easy to do). This year we got TWO cases – that was great!

april January 31, 2013 at 4:09 am

I am so glad you started this budget series again. The stockpiling does make a lot of sense. I buy groceries every two weeks and each time I will spend at least half the money at the grocery store, but the other half will be to order meat online that is pastured and free range, or this time around I will be stocking up on raw honey and buying a large bag of himilayan pink salt from amazon. Each time I will concentrate on something else I need. I also really enjoy your meal ideas that you share as it puts into my mind what healthy eating is.

lydia February 3, 2013 at 9:05 am

Glad to hear you are finding this series helpful April!!!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: